Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley hit out at Croatian referee Mario Zebec after his side’s Champions League exit, stating that an ‘awful decision’ had cost the League of Ireland champions a lucrative ticket to the next round.
overs bounced back from a 2-0 defeat in Slovakia last week to go 2-0 up on Slovan Bratislava at Tallaght Stadium.
But they exited the competition after ex-Man City and Rangers attacker Vladimir Weiss scored a controversial goal to give Slovan a 3-2 aggregate victory, with Rovers defender Roberto Lopes claiming he was fouled in the build-up.
Bradley said that the replays supported his view, and added that the fourth official on the sideline admitted that a foul had occurred.
“The fourth official is saying foul because he sees the forward push him but the ref doesn’t listen to him. For such a big decision, it’s an awful decision,” said Bradley.
“It’s a definite foul. I know that’s easy to say when it’s the goal that knocked you out but if you get done by the front players with a bit of quality, sometimes you have to take it and accept that.
“But we dealt with that and we get done by a really really poor decision, an awful decision that cost us.”
Bradley felt the Slovaks were on the ropes at that point and believed Rovers had the freshness to go on and set up a tie with Swiss side Young Boys. They would also have been guaranteed European rewards north of €1.3m.
“There is only one team going to win then,” he continued, “They (Slovan) were done, you could sense they were on the pitch. Physically they were done.
“The performance that the players gave has to be up there with one of the best Irish performances because we were playing a team who are at a really high level. We kept them really quiet, we created a lot of chances. Ultimately we got done by a terrible decision.
“We knew last week wasn’t us, there were loads of factors with the heat, getting a feel for them which is always the case in Europe. We felt we couldn’t press them the way we wanted to but tonight we could, we had them rattled early. I’m so proud of the players, and their performance, but I’m gutted for them because we got done.”
Rovers will now go into the new Europa Conference League and, on the plus side, they have received a bye to the third round of that competition.
They will need to advance through two ties to make the group stages of that tournament and their opponents will also be domestic champions that have been knocked out of the main competition.
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